“As you travel solo, being totally responsible for yourself, it’s inevitable that you will discover how truly capable you are.” Anonymous
Safety, or to get to the heart of the matter, fear, seems to be the number one concern for women when it comes to traveling with their kids, but without their partner. I think for many of us we feel as if we are the equivalent of a sitting duck, waiting for something bad to happen. That fear becomes even worse when we bring our children along because now we are faced with the thought of something happening to them. As women there is a vulnerability we feel when faced with the world. So many people have strong opinions when it comes to women traveling alone or with only their kids and not their husbands. A lot of it is rooted in the anxiety of something terrible happening from a mugging to rape. I cannot definitively say nothing bad will ever happen to you. That unfortunately is not a guarantee any of us have in life. But what I can offer are some tips that may help put your mind at ease and hopefully empower you to take the leap into traveling solo.
My first tip is know that you can do this. The first trip I planned I let my fear get the best of me and I scrapped the whole thing. I lacked the confidence and fell prey to that negative inner voice. It kept asking, “Are you sure you can really do this? Do you know all the things that can go wrong?” That voice is sneaky and it is not my friend. It was not intuition, but the anxious and pessimistic side of my brain, the parts that doubts most goals I set my sites on. The next year I planned a trip and I made sure not to listen that little voice. I suppressed it every time it tried to creep into my thoughts which was quite. In fact, even with our trip this summer it still tries to creep into my thoughts. I don’t think it ever really goes away. I just get better at dealing with it. But when I returned from that first trip I realized 1.) it was not scary and my imagination had gotten the best of me 2.) I was completely capable of taking my kids on a trip without my husband and surviving that trip 3.) the experience was empowering. I totally had one of those “I am woman hear me roar” moments.
Although I encourage you to not listen to that inner voice that doubts your abilities, you should definitely listen to the intuitive voice when out on the road. The one that is known as a “gut feeling”. Author and security specialist, Gavin de Becker has a lot to say about intuition and is a big proponent of listening to your gut. As de Becker states in his book, The Gift of Fear, “Intuition is always right in at least two important ways: it is always in response to something and it always has your best interest at heart.” Will I miss a good opportunity? Possibly. But it’s just not worth my safety or the safety of my children. He goes to dissect the difference between men and women, which I think is poignant when it comes to how we feel about traveling solo and experiencing the world around us, “It is understandable that the perspectives of men and women on safety are so different–men and women live in different worlds…at core, men are afraid women will laugh at them, while at core, women are afraid men will kill them.” This is a anxious vulnerability that inhibits us from exploring on our own. We will sit in front of a computer or phone screen and live vicariously through others’ adventures out of our fear of what could happen. After reading his book, I learned to be assertive and not care what others thought (yes, it can be hard to do.) Let’s face it, as women we are afraid of being perceived as a “bitch” if we are not friendly. This isn’t to say I don’t talk to anyone while travelling. I absolutely do because that is how you learn about a region and the local culture, but I am careful with the details I give and the people I talk to. Listen to your intuition when talking to a person or are in a situation where something just doesn’t feel right. Remind yourself you will never see these people again and if they perceive you as a certain way (ie. unfriendly or a bitch) don’t let it bother you. Your safety is far more important than a stranger’s impression of you.
In addition to intuition, research is key. Research where you are going and where you will be staying. I look at photos of the town or the accommodations to get a feel of what they are like and what their surroundings are. This can be done with TripAdvisor and Google Images. I also read the city’s overveiw and forums on TripAdvisor to see what people say about the location. If something doesn’t look right, things look dilapidated, or my gut says no, I skip the hotel/motel or the city altogether.
Planning is great, but what about when you are actually on the road? There are several actions I take to help us stay safe. I suggest popular or busy highways while you are getting acquainted with solo travel. Maybe skip the desolate or scenic route in favor of a major interstate. This way if you have car trouble you will not feel so isolated, will most likely have cell service to call for help, and have a greater chance of a highway patrol officer passing by. Also a roadside service such as AAA helps in the event you have car trouble. You may not use it every year, but it is worth its weight in gold when you need it. Now that I have several trips under my belt I am more confident in taking a less popular highway, but in the beginning as I built my confidence and experience I planned routes along commonly traveled interstates.
Although this may sound obvious, it is still worth mentioning: be aware of your surroundings. Make eye contact with people, don’t look down at your phone while walking, know who is around you, as well as what is going on around you. If I need to look at my phone I step aside to glance down. I have spoken with many police officers and have been told time after time that the easiest targets are people who are either looking down at their phones or those who are not paying attention to what is going on around them. Awareness is key, especially in big cities.
In addition to being aware of your surroundings it also goes to say that it is not a good idea to walk around in some areas with your camera hanging out, your cell phone in your back pocket, or having any other obvious sign of something valuable. For example, my fancy wedding ring stays at home and I wear a simple, thin gold band. Also my camera bag looks like a purse not a camera bag, the cell phone is tucked away, and I put some of my cash in other places so it doesn’t look like I have a huge wad of bills in my wallet when I open it. Typically I don’t travel with a large sum of cash, but I still prefer to not have several bills stacked in my wallet. These days debit cards make it easy to pull out money at the grocery store and most places offer an ATM.
I use social media a lot when I travel and it’s not just for this blog or our IG account. I use it to check in so my family knows I am safe. If I am in an area where there is cell service or wifi and I have not posted something in over 24 hours my family knows to start trying to get ahold of me. I also check in daily with my husband via phone call or text. I send several texts to my mom and my in laws as well. It’s equal parts sharing our adventures and letting them know we have arrived to our destination safely. If I am travelling to a location that may not have cell service, such as a national park, I will give my husband heads up. Although I post to Instagram and Facebook while we travel, I make it a point to not post a lot of detail on social media about where I am staying until I have left that location. I will list the city, but no information on the accommodations until I have hit the road.
In addition to my family following me on social media I leave them a detailed itinerary of our trip. This includes the dates, the route we will be driving, the place we will be staying, and some of the activities we will be doing. This way they will know how to track me down if they are concerned or if I have not posted anything to social media. I like the security of my family knowing where we are and they appreciate knowing where we are as well. It’s important to always let at least one person know your travel plans.
As women we have a tendency to underestimate our ability to travel without our spouses. But when we put ourselves out there the rewards are tremendous. The confidence, the empowerment, getting out of our comfort zone; these are all places where growth happens, and that is important not only for ourselves, but for us to role model for our children. So many women sell themselves short on their abilities. Truth be told we are strong AF. If we can create babies, give birth, and then live through the emotional, sleep deprived roller coaster that is raising kids we can definitely hop into a car and take a trip.